April 12, 2021

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What the "grievance study" scandal means to the Arab-Israeli conflict


This story is all over today:

A trio of concerned academics has published seven intentionally absurd papers in leading scholarly journals, making bizarre recommendations including chaining up children and keeping men on leashes.

The trio say the papers, which used fabricated authors and credentials, are an attempt to expose political bias in fields that study race, gender and sexuality, which they see as being misled by biased research and poor methodology.

Their papers argued for a slew of bewildering positions, including chaining up privileged school children as an educational opportunity and a push to include “fat bodybuilding”’ in professional bodybuilding competitions as a way to nullify fat shaming.

Another paper rewrote a chapter of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, replacing parts of Hitler’s political manifesto with terms including “solidarity allyship”, “neo-liberal feminism” and “’multi-variate matrix of domination”.

Each of the papers were peer-reviewed before being published, meaning they passed the highest level of critical assessment in their fields.

The trio went public with the project after The Wall Street Journal uncovered it, saying a paper which claimed dog parks are “petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture’” was ridiculous enough to pique the publication’s interest.

 “We intentionally made the papers absurd and used faulty methods to see if they could pass scrutiny at the highest level of academia. Concerningly, they did,” James Lindsay, one of the authors of the papers, said.
“A rambling poetic monologue of a bitter, divorced feminist written by a teenage-angst poetry generator shouldn’t be accepted as a scholarly article worthy of publishing.”

In US humanities departments an academic with seven papers published within seven years is awarded tenure, an indefinite academic appointment. The trio completed these seven papers within 10 months.

I once noted the difference between two sets of Columbia University faculty that signed an anti-Israel or pro-Israel petition.

The anti-Israel professors were mostly concentrated in “soft science” fields like anthropology, gender studies, sociology, history and Middle East studies.

The pro-Israel professors were concentrated in engineering, medicine and law.

The hoax papers showed that in the soft sciences like sociology, scholarship is a joke. Papers are judged based on their conclusions, not on the rigor of their arguments, which means that these papers are written with the conclusion determined first, and the “facts” cherry picked or made up to support the foregone conclusion.

We see the same thing with anti-Israel “scholarship.” The conclusion comes first – Israel is an apartheid state, Israelis are racist, the IDF targets civilians, or whatever the outrage flavor of the day is. Then they find some “facts,” often fictional or highly deceptive, and publicize them. Actual facts and context are to be hidden if they don’t match the “narrative.” In fact, any Israeli actions that contradict the narrative are spun as if they prove the narrative (i.e., “pinkwashing.”)  Just as in “grievance studies,” the conclusion is the driver to the evidence, not the other way around.

No wonder that academics who value truth and rigor tend to be pro-Israel and academics who favor narratives and political correctness lean towards the very victim-posing Palestinians.

And no wonder that the pro-Palestinian side tries to hijack any other grievance cause – women, people of color, first peoples, the disabled – to pretend that they are fighting the same fight, when in fact Palestinians are among the least liberal people on the planet.

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